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Falsehood and Deception vs. Truth and Reality

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I was once delivering a lecture to a group of students at a local public (i.e., government) high school and I made the point that one of the biggest reasons why government officials love to control the educational system is for the purpose of indoctrination.

The students were incredulous. “Are you saying that we’ve been indoctrinated?” they asked?

“That’s precisely what I’m saying,” I responded.

Let me provide a perfect example: the Great Depression.

Suppose you were to give a one-question test in public schools across the country and, for that matter, to all graduates of U.S. public high schools: “True or False: The Great Depression was caused by the failure of America’s free-enterprise system.”

There can really be no doubt about what the answer would be. The vast majority of respondents would answer: True.

Yet, the correct answer is False. As Milton Friedman, Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, Murray Rothbard, and others have documented so well, the Great Depression was caused by the Federal Reserve, America’s central bank, a federal institution that is antithetical to free enterprise.

Consider the following statement by Ben Bernanke, which he delivered at a dinner in honor of Friedman on November 8, 2002: “Let me end my talk by abusing slightly my status as an official representative of the Federal Reserve. I would like to say to Milton and Anna: Regarding the Great Depression. You’re right, we did it. We’re very sorry. But thanks to you, we won’t do it again.”

Wouldn’t you think that the mainstream media would at least want to get to the bottom of what is obviously a very important point? Wouldn’t you think that they’d say, “We’ve got a problem here because the government schools are teaching that free enterprise caused the Great Depression while the current chairman of America’s central bank is stating that it was the Fed that caused it”?

No, most of those journalists, like so many other Americans, would rather not confront something that might cause them to pierce through the many years of public-school indoctrination.

The situation is comparable to the old story about the emperor’s new clothes. The emperor is naked but everyone is convinced that he’s actually walking around in a fancy birthday suit. One day, some kid pierces through the deception and declares that the emperor is wearing nothing at all. Everyone is shocked and appalled over this involuntary exposure to reality. Life was much more comfortable operating under the popular deception.

That’s what is going on with respect to the Great Depression. People just want to hold on to what they were taught in their government schools, no matter how naked the lie is.

Alas, the deception and delusion are not limited to the Great Depression.

Today, we might well be witnessing the death throes of America’s welfare state and warfare state. Everywhere you look, the entire statist system is in crisis or chaos.

Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FDIC, the drug war, Iraq, Afghanistan, the dollar, federal spending, the national debt, stimulus plans, foreign aid, nationalizations, corporate and banking bailouts, and on and on.

The whole welfare-warfare system is busted, broke, bankrupt. With each passing day, it gets worse and worse, as federal officials continue to double down their bets in the hopes that somehow the system is going to come out fine.

But notice what the statists are saying: That it’s not socialism or imperialism that have failed, it’s free enterprise!

Herein lies one of the biggest, most important debates of our time. Because if the statists prevail with this nonsense, as they have with their Great Depression nonsense, then the road ahead is obvious: more socialism and imperialism, that is, more death, destruction, chaos, crises, control, and loss of freedom.

The antidote for such falsehood and delusion is a healthy dose of truth and reality. That’s what libertarians do. We’re like that kid that tells people that the emperor has no clothes — that he’s walking around naked as a jaybird. By confronting people with truth and reality, we accelerate the process by which genuine free enterprise can be restored to our land.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.